It's the difference that matters: An argument for contextually-grounded acoustic intonational phonology.
Standardly, the link between intonation and discourse meaning is described in terms of perceptual intonation categories, e.g. ToBI. We argue that this approach needs to be refined to explicitly recognise: firstly, that perception is affected by multiple acoustic cues, including duration and intensity, as well as F0; and secondly that the interpretation of these cues is directly linked to the phonetic and discourse context. Investigating the marking of topic status in a small game task corpus, we found that although topic status is not consistently marked by ToBI pitch accent, it is by the F0 mean, intensity and duration of the topic word. Using regression analysis, we found that when factoring out the F0 mean and intensity of key parts of the preceding discourse, intensity and duration become stronger predictors of topic status than F0.